Exceptional Hardship

Exceptional Hardship is an argument often used by Keep Your Licence in order to preserve the driving licences of those faced with disqualification from driving as a result of being ‘totter’ i.e. someone who has collected 12 penalty points on their driving licence.

The Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 contains provisions which limit the number of points that a driver can acquire within any given three year period of driving. As most people are aware, these are called the ‘totting’ provisions. The ‘totting’ provisions are the reason why most people appear in court facing a driving ban. It is the type of case that we spend most time dealing with, day in day out.

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It is much easier these days for even a relatively careful driver to acquire multiple convictions for driving offences. Most common are the speeding offences, often at low speed in built up, urban, areas. In themselves, the speeding offences may attract 3 penalty points, and be dealt with by way of a fixed penalty notice. However, it is all too common for those driving long distances, often connected with their employment, to collect 12 penalty points or more. We often advise that drivers give greater consideration to challenging relatively minor offences, where there is a viable defence, even if the consequences will only be three points onto a clean driving licence. Penalty points can soon add up, and there might be no reasonable defence to the offence which tips you over 12 penalty points.

If you reach 12 penalty points, thereby triggering the ‘totting’ provisions, then you will be liable to a minimum disqualification of 6 months, unless you can bring yourself with the category of drivers who would be caused ‘exceptional hardship’ by reason of a disqualification from driving for 6 months or more. If the exceptional hardship argument is successful, then the Court has a discretion to impose simply the points and a fine, or to disqualify from driving for less than 6 months. In practice, it is either a 6 month driving ban, or points.

Successful ‘exceptional hardship’ arguments often centre upon the likelihood of a loss of employment if there is a disqualification from driving. However, these arguments must be carefully put if they are to succeed. The Magistrates are very circumspect about finding ‘exceptional hardship’, as the name would suggest. Recent guidance issued to the courts about how to apply the rules about exceptional hardship mean that is can be harder to establish than in previous years. There is an increasing requirement to show hardship caused to family or to employees (where the driver owns a business). Hardship relating solely to the defendant will not now normally succeed.

The consequences of being disqualified from driving for so long can be enormous, and we would strongly urge you to take expert legal advice before deciding how to deal with your court appearance.


“I am a senior solicitor and Deputy District Judge so I am used to dealing with other lawyers. I found Richard to be admirably helpful and sympathetic. He was able to see the issues clearly and quickly and directed me to to the likely outcome, and what to do practically. I was facing a notice of intended prosecution for dangerous driving which would have meant massively advise consequences for me given my position. Richard’s practical and down to earth approach put the matter into context for me. I was extremely pleased I was able to receive his help so promptly. As another lawyer, I rate Richard’s abilities as very high and competent.”


If you have any queries about the matters on this page, or you are due to appear ay Court facing disqualification from driving as a totter, then please call us on 0800 0126039 for free and without obligation legal advice. Alternatively, fill out an online enquiry form.